January 24, 2020

Appropriations; Biofuels; Biotech; Immigration; CFTC; Tax Extenders; Data; and, the Ag Economy

Appropriations- Nutrition, and Conservation

Tom Hamburger reported in today’s Washington Post that, “First lady Michelle Obama is set to take an unusual, high-profile step Tuesday into the center of a legislative battle by delivering White House remarks taking issue with makers of frozen pizzas and french fries and other companies seeking to scale back school lunch standards.

“Obama is scheduled to speak out against a House measure, backed by Republicans and pushed by the food industry and some school officials, that would allow some districts to opt out of federal mandates passed in 2010 to reduce sodium and increase whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables in school lunches. White House aides say she will announce the launch of a campaign-style push to fight the legislation.

“The effort fits with the spirit of Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign and other initiatives in which she has advocated for healthy eating and a reduction of obesity. Until now, however, she has largely shied away from direct confrontations with lawmakers and industry groups.”


Farm Bill; Trade; and Brazil

Categories: Brazil /Farm Bill /Trade

Farm Bill Issues

Pat Westhoff, the director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri, noted in a column on Saturday that, “The farm bill cleared its first hurdle last month, gaining approval from a key Senate committee. There are no guarantees that all the remaining hurdles will be cleared this year.”

Dr. Westhoff noted that, “Compared to simply extending current law, the bill would cut net federal spending by $23 billion over the next 10 years, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office. Spending is cut by reducing farm subsidies and making smaller changes in conservation programs and the supplemental nutrition assistance program, or SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program.”

“The draft farm bill uses some of the savings from eliminating direct payments to create a new Agriculture Risk Coverage program. The program would pay farmers for smaller losses that are not covered by crop insurance. The proposed formulas are complex, but farmers would get a payment when per-acre revenues fall by at least 11 percent from a recent average. Farmers are expected to use the existing crop insurance program to protect themselves against losses of more than 21 percent.”


Farm Bill; Ag Economy (Land Values); Food Safety; and Crop Insurance

Farm Bill

James Q. Lynch reported yesterday at the Newton Daily News Online (Iowa) that, “It may be 2010, but Rep. Leonard Boswell has been working on the 2012 Farm Bill and warning that farmers may see some cuts in agricultural programs as Congress tries to rein in the federal debt.

“The next farm bill will include a safety net, the seven-term Des Moines Democrat told The Gazette Editorial Board last week, but programs may have to be capped or ‘adjusted.’

“‘There’s going to be a major effort to get our arms around reducing the debt and starting to draw back on it,’ said Boswell, who served 20 years in the Army, farmed and served in the Iowa Senate before being elected to the U.S. House.”


Farm Bill Hearing; Biofuels; Climate Issues; and Animal Agriculture

Farm Bill Hearing: USDA-SRA Crop Insurance Proposal a Prominent Issue

A House Ag Committee news release from yesterday stated that, “House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Chairman Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, today held the Subcommittee’s first hearing to review U.S. farm safety net programs in advance of the 2012 Farm Bill.

“The Agriculture Committee has begun the process of writing the 2012 Farm Bill, holding field hearings in eight states. Today’s subcommittee hearing is the next step in the process.

“The Subcommittee heard from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Jim Miller.”


Crop Insurance; Farm Bill; Ag – Rural Economy; Water Issues; Climate Issues; Biofuels; and USDA

Crop Insurance: Standard Reinsurance Agreement

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Crop insurers are upset that USDA officials are not yielding on contract negotiations that would reduce payments to insurers by $6 billion over 10 years, but the leader of a trade association for crop-insurance companies appears resigned to the fact payment cuts are coming.

“Bob Parkerson, president of the National Crop Insurance Services [NCIS], said USDA officials have informed insurers that the new standard reinsurance agreement is USDA’s final offer.

“‘I’m going to have to tell you at this point I believe this is the contract we are going to have to accept,’ Parkerson said, ‘or not accept, up to the individual company.’”


Farm Bill; Climate Change; Animal Agriculture; Biofuels; and Financial Regulation

Farm Bill

Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “The long march to a new farm bill begins this week in what promises to be a contentious process that could have a big impact on what farmers grow and how they are paid.”

“‘I’ve told people we should put everything on the table,’ said Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson. ‘My interest is in providing the best, most rational, safety net for the average commercial farmer in this country.’”


Climate Issues; Brazil Cotton Case; Crop Insurance; Animal Agriculture; Biofuels; and the Ag Economy

Climate Issues- Senate Agenda

J. Taylor Rushing reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “Senate Democratic leaders will push an agenda topped by a banking reform bill over the seven-week work period before Memorial Day.

“Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ retirement announcement Friday isn’t likely to derail the Democratic agenda in the upper chamber, since President Barack Obama’s nominee will be sent first to the Judiciary Committee. Obama has said he will select a nominee within weeks.

That leaves Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd’s banking reform bill as the majority party’s top priority before lawmakers next leave town for the first week of June.”


Climate Issues; EPA Pesticide Issue; Brazil Cotton Case; Crop Insurance; Ag Economy; and Biofuels

Climate Issues

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) penned an opinion item that was posted today at Roll Call Online. In part, Sen. Kerry stated that, “It has been three months since President Barack Obama and the United States took an important step toward leading the world in developing the Copenhagen Accord, a breakthrough new global agreement among almost 120 nations, including China and the developing world, to reduce emissions, increase transparency and support international climate change investments.

At its foundation is a new economic reality that the leaders of the 21st century will be those committed to clean energy economies.

“The United States, with our innovative spirit and entrepreneurial vitality, is positioned to lead the way — if we seize the opportunity staring us in the face.”


Biofuels; Climate Issues; Trade; Farm Bill; Animal Agriculture; and Food Safety


DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “The division in agriculture over ethanol policy is expanding after the National Corn Growers Association publicly lashed out at the American Meat Institute for partnering with organizations that frequently attack animal agriculture.

“Rick Tolman, NCGA’s chief executive officer, is questioning the meat lobby’s bedfellows, including groups such as Friends of the Earth, Environmental Working Group and Natural Resources Defense Council. ‘All folks who are fighting agriculture,’ Tolman said. ‘Right now, I’m working the better part of today and yesterday putting coalitions together to raise money to fight the Humane Society (of the United States) efforts on animal-welfare issues,’ he said.

Tolman said his members are angry NCGA is working with livestock groups to raise money and defend animal agriculture from attacks by the Humane Society of the United States while AMI is now partnered with groups friendly to HSUS to defeat an extension of the ethanol blenders credit.”


Animal Agriculture; Brazil Cotton Case; Farm Bill; Sweetener Controversy; Climate Issues; Trade; Food Safety; and CFTC Issues

Animal Agriculture

Reuters writer Christopher Doering reported yesterday that, “An undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States [HSUS] of major U.S. egg producers showed ‘rampant abuse’ of hens, which the animal rights group said on Wednesday could prompt more consumers to embrace ‘cage-free’ methods of production.”

The article pointed out that, “The Humane Society has played an increasingly active role in pressuring industry in several states to end livestock practices it considers cruel.”

Mr. Doering noted that, “In the egg production probe, the group [HSUS] sent an investigator to facilities in Iowa owned by Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Enterprises, the nation’s second- and third-largest egg producers. There were about 10 million birds at the facilities that were investigated.”

“Rose Acre executive vice president Tony Wesner said in an interview his firm takes ‘animal welfare very seriously’ and has all employees, including the Humane Society worker, sign an agreement requiring them to report signs of animal abuse.

“‘Unfortunately that didn’t happen,’ he said, referring to the Humane Society employee. ‘We’ll just have to take this and look at it some more and deal with it.’”


Brazil Cotton Case; Biofuels; Trade; Climate Issues; Ag Economy; and the Farm Bill

Brazil Cotton Case

Sewell Chan reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “The United States and Brazil have reached an agreement aimed at settling a long-standing trade dispute over American subsidies to cotton growers, officials in both countries said Tuesday.

The announcement came one day before Brazil was to begin imposing up to $830 million in sanctions with authorization from the World Trade Organization. The trade body had ruled last August that American subsidies to cotton growers had violated global trade rules.

“Under the preliminary deal, Brazil would hold off on retaliation in exchange for American concessions that include the modification of an export loan program and the establishment of a temporary assistance fund for the Brazilian cotton industry. The broader issues in contention would be deferred until Congress takes up the next farm bill, most likely in 2012.”


Biofuels; EPA Issues; Climate Change; Food Security; Trade; and CFTC Issues


A news release issued yesterday by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) stated that, “[RFA] today praised the bipartisan Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act (RFRA) introduced by Representatives Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and John Shimkus (R-IL). The bill, HR 4940, would extend the $0.45 Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), commonly called the blenders’ credit, and the secondary tariff on imported ethanol until December 31, 2015. It would also extend the Small Producers Tax Credit and the Cellulosic Ethanol Production Tax Credit to January 1, 2016.

“‘Allowing the tax incentives for ethanol to expire is simply not an option,’ said Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. ‘Failure to extend these incentives would force 112,000 Americans out of their jobs and shutter nearly 2 out of every 5 ethanol plants operating today. Long term extensions of these important incentives are good policy that encourages investment in current and next generation ethanol technologies.’”

Yesterday, Chuck Zimmerman interviewed Bob Dinneen, who participated in a press conference where the bill was introduced. To listen to this brief interview, just click here.


Budget; Climate Issues; Ag Economy; Trade; Biofuels; and Crop Insurance


A news release issued yesterday by Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) indicated that, “U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), a senior member of the Committee, today announced they sent a letter to the President opposing budget cuts to farm programs in a tough economy. The letter was also signed by Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Thune (R-SD), James Risch (R-ID), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and David Vitter (R-LA).”

In part, the letter stated that, “As Congress directs its attention to the fiscal year 2011 budget, we write to voice our opposition to cuts in the farm safety net. Cutting farm programs in the midst of an economic downturn sends the wrong signal to rural America. While we agree that fiscal restraint is necessary and spending in the Federal budget should be reduced, doing so in this manner places a disproportionate burden on the backs of farmers, ranchers and rural communities and fails to recognize the recent sacrifices these constituencies made to expand nutrition programs during the reauthorization of the 2008 farm bill.

“In 2008, the Congress passed a fiscally responsible farm bill that did not add to the deficit and included more than $7 billion worth of cuts to farm and the crop insurance programs to increase spending in nutrition assistance for needy Americans. The farm bill represents a commitment to our rural communities, and we have an obligation to fulfill our obligations to our farmers and ranchers who depend on this legislation to make business decisions. Reducing our level of commitment with the proposed budget cuts to the farm safety net jeopardizes their economic sustainability and would cost jobs in rural America.”


Climate Issues; Trade; Ag Economy; and Corn Production Implications

Climate Issues

A news release issued yesterday by USDA stated that, “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today discussed how properly structured climate change and energy legislation will benefit America’s farmers and ranchers in a speech at the National Farmers Union 2010 convention in Rapid City, S.D. USDA also released a memo looking at assumptions in the FASOM model – developed by researchers at Texas A & M University that the Environmental Protection Agency – to study the impacts of climate legislation.

“‘USDA is committed to helping Congress design and implement a carbon offsets market that will provide significant income opportunities to America’s farmers and ranchers,’ said Vilsack. ‘USDA and third-party analyses, as well as our experience in implementing conservation techniques, make it absolutely clear that properly structured legislation will avoid unintended consequences and provide enormous benefits to our agricultural economy, and our environment.’”

The release pointed to the complete text of USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber’s memo to Secretary Vilsack on the FASOM model, which is available here.


Trade; Climate Issues; Ag Competition Issues; and Animal Agriculture

Editor’s Note: The third section of the March 10, 2010, Report entitled “Disaster Payments, SURE, and Crop Insurance Issues” includes a quotation from an outside report that contains an inaccurate statement. The relevant quotation reads, in part, as follows:

“A major reason, according to USDA and academic studies, is that the private crop insurance companies set southern premiums relatively high…”

It is commonly known by individuals who are familiar with Federal crop insurance that crop insurance companies do not set premiums for any of the program’s policies. USDA determines all Federal crop insurance program premiums. This important program characteristic is a plain, simple and historical fact. However, for program clarification purposes, it would be helpful to report this fact.

Trade: Agriculture and Cuba- House Ag Committee Hearing

Derek Wallbank reported yesterday at the that, “The latest effort to bridge the 90-mile gap from Key West to Cuba is being led here by a pair of Minnesota lawmakers who contend that easing restrictions on the island nation could mean millions for Minnesota’s agriculture industry.

“‘America’s current policies have failed to achieve their stated goal and instead they have hand-delivered an export market in our own backyard to the Brazilians, the Europeans and our other competitors around the world,’ said Rep. Collin Peterson. ‘It’s time we ask ourselves why we have in place policies that simply do not work and that only harm U.S. interests.’

“Peterson’s remarks came at the start of a House Agriculture Committee hearing he called to discuss his own legislation to lift the travel ban to Cuba and ease rules on agricultural exports to the island nation. Earlier today, Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced a companion measure in the Senate. Both the House and Senate bills have Republican co-sponsors.

“‘The bill we have introduced would eliminate the requirement that our farmers have to go through a third country bank to do business in Cuba and would place agricultural exports to Cuba on the same terms for cash payment as other countries, requiring payment when the shipment changes hands,’ Peterson said. ‘It would also make it easier for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, allowing American agricultural producers to more easily conduct business with Cuba and boosting demand for U.S. products in Cuba.’”

At yesterday’s hearing, Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), a co-sponsor of the bill, provided an interesting historic and analytical background with respect to the issue of U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba. To listen to a portion of his comments from yesterday’s hearing, just click here (MP3-7:42).


Jobs Bill; Crop Insurance- SURE; Competition Issues; Climate Issues; and Trade

Jobs Bill- Biodiesel, Ag Disaster Payments

Ben Pershing reported in today’s Washington Post that, “The Senate approved a $140 billion package of tax breaks and aid to the unemployed Wednesday, the most substantial effort by the chamber to boost the nation’s economy since it passed the stimulus bill last year.

Six Republicans joined 56 Democrats to pass the measure, 62 to 36. The package faces an uncertain future in the House, where Democrats have taken a markedly different approach to the ‘jobs agenda,’ as current efforts to pass jobs legislation are known, than have their Senate colleagues.”


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